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Recovery 2.0: Open source disaster recovery

People have been using the Web to help Katrina victims connect to loved ones, find shelter, etc. Government largely ignores these resources. How can a Web 2.0 approach to gathering diversity of information be used to improve disaster recovery in the future?

Jeff Jarvis  of BuzzMachine.com is floating the idea of Recovery 2.0, a Web 2.0 approach to coordinating disaster relief. There are seven basic tasks that need doing after a disaster. The question is whether Web 2.0 technologies can be put in place to make the effort more effective:

1. share information,
2. report and act on calls for help,
3. coordinate relief,
4. connect the missing,
5. provide connections for such necessities as housing and jobs,
6. match charitable assets to needs,
7. get people connected to this and the world sooner.

For information sharing, he asks:

How can we use not just the web and the internet but also SMS and voice phones and other means to gather news both broadly and very locally? How can we organize it? How can we make it discoverable and searchable? How do we share it across various media?

For making connections, the many independent, corporate and government resources create a diversity of information scattered about the web:

This is where the distributed nature of the web can work against making connections. One solution is, of course, to rally around one repository per need — e.g., the Red Cross for every case of the missing — but the truth is that people will also go where they have a community; look at the missing boards at Nola.com and WWL TV in New Orleans.

So the better solution is to find a way to make these disparate, distributed pools of data (1) findable, (2) scrapable, and (3) searchable. How do we do that: better search, tags, microformats, manual effort?

For disaster management itself, Jarvis quotes an email from an anonymous correspondent:

The local and federal gov’t can make available all information they have before them regarding the levees (technical drawings, visuals, CAD drawings, assessments) and the entire world community in particular university researchers can peruse the same available data and contribute ideas and solutions. ... All charities can reference a single open source resource to find out what the needs are, the conditions on the ground and where to deliver. All of this can be a real-time WiKi. Why does the relief effort need to be closed protocol and proprietary. ... Also, why don’t we have WiMax telephones that can quickly be deployed and work like walkie talkies for first responders. Open source government, coordination and management has potential and should be explored further: now’s the time.

On  connectivity:

How can we get people in need connected to all the functionality and information above? Should more of us volunteer to go to shelters with our machines? How can we install wifi quickly?

How can volunteers do these tasks for people who aren’t online? Should there be some great virtual Skype phoneroom of volunteers to enter and retrieve data for people?